“DIY Dawn Dog Shampoo That Kills Fleas’

A Pinterest recipe that caught my eye. “Kills fleas? What and who is the killer?” I wondered.

The recipe is simple. Water, White vinegar and Dawn dish soap. As water and white vinegar are considered safe, it has to be the Dawn detergent that is the hero bug killer. I am quite familiar with the pros and cons of detergent but washing my dog in a chemical laden detergent would not be my first choice, fleas or no fleas. I decided to investigate.

There are warnings on this dish soap recipe: 

Don’t use on your dog if skin problems already exist.
Watch your dog closely afterwards to see if there is any reaction.

As a long time, dog owner, I know fleas can definitely be a problem.  But a detergent wash is dangerous to your dog. While Dawn was targeted in this recipe, most commercial detergents do contain all of the surfactants, the cleaners, the flea killers.  

The surfactant is what actually kills the fleas. A surfactant is a substance, like detergent, when added to water, reduces the surface tension. This makes it ‘wetter’ and allows it to spread further. If a flea hits plain water it may start to flail around and may even escape, therefore avoiding demise. A flea is small and has a water-repellant layer of wax that repels water and even prevents it entering its respiratory system. But add a drop or two of Dawn or similar detergent and they are doomed. Their exoskeleton becomes compromised and that makes the flea drown. However, life is not simple. Yes, the fleas on the dog may be dead but in reality, that is only about 5% of the problem. The others are partying in the rest of the house and not social distancing either. They are getting it on and very quickly. Carpets, beds, couches…all the cozy places are perfect for reproduction. Meaning, you will need to clean the entire house, not just the dog.

The Good: The Dawn recipe will kill the fleas at the time you wash your dog
The Bad: The fleas will continue to multiply elsewhere and will find your dog again.
The Ugly: Your dog’s skin may definitely suffer from the strong detergent 

Dogs have less oil than humans on their skin, thus dish soap can dry out their skin to the point they may even end up with skin infections. Unless your pet is in an absolute desperate flea party mode and your vet reluctantly concurs, a dish soap wash is the last resort. It is NOT recommended to regularly use dish soap as a common cleanser for your pet. It is not a prevention for fleas. Talk to your vet about flea control. Their special soaps are much gentler.

Or, do as we do. Your dog will LOVE the feel of a real soap on the skin. It cleans and adds nutrition. Add a little neem oil to any good soap and voila, you have a good and effective cleanser to help prevent fleas and have healthy skin.

Neem is a miracle oil and used in the garden industry as a deterrent to over 20 insects.  Neem oil on dogs is an excellent prevention. Our emu- neem soap or our nori neem soap are excellent choices. Our shampoo bars (to which you can add a drop or two of pure neem oil) are first-rate options. By the way, aside from the flea issue, be prepared for a possible skunk encounter: Tuxedo Meets Pepé Le Pew.